• Sat
  • Nov 22, 2014
  • Updated: 10:18pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Tap social media to connect better with mainlanders

Susan Chan says reaching out via weibo, to explain our policies, can improve relations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 2:32am

The past few years have seen increasing conflicts between people in Hong Kong and those from the mainland. The rule to limit sales of baby formula, for example, not only drew criticism from the mainland media and public but has also caused controversy at home.

There are many reasons why relations are strained. Hong Kong alone will not be able to solve the problem. But as a special administrative region of China, and as a city that has prided itself on being an international metropolis and a bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world, we would not be living up to our name if we cannot manage the relationship with our neighbours well.

There are a number of official channels in place on cross- border co-operation. These, however, are aimed more at fostering communication at various government levels. We need to reach out to the people on the mainland as well.

It is not easy for mainland residents to get a full picture of what is happening in Hong Kong. Our newspapers are not sold there and their access to the internet is restricted. Our TV broadcasts reach only as far as our neighbouring provinces. Many mainlanders therefore see Hong Kong as it is portrayed by mainland media.

In the case of the baby formula row, a rule that aims to protect the interests of Hong Kong children and to clamp down on law-breakers is being seen as unfeeling and targeting ordinary mainland parents.

We need to get the message across to people on the mainland. But how do we do that?

Why not leverage the power of the internet? Weibo has become a popular and effective tool of communication on the mainland. The Hong Kong government has a weibo account but unfortunately it is treated more like a notice board, with formal language, and is not lively at all.

Take the baby formula case. There have been quotes of what our government officials have said but these do not specifically address the criticism by mainlanders. Neither do they explain the difficulties Hong Kong parents encountered - for example, the long queues outside drug stores - or why it is difficult to increase supply.

To best use the power of the internet, we need people who understand both Hong Kong and the mainland well, are able to speak Putonghua and are sensitive to the ways of thinking on the mainland.

The relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland is complex, and there are things that we cannot control. This is, however, not an excuse for us to avoid making an effort to build a stronger bond. After all, building good relations with our compatriots is important for our future.

Susan Chan is a senior manager at the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong

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Obviously Ms. Chan has no ideal at all about what type of HK-mainland discourses are present on the Internet. The tensions in the 'real world' are fully, if not more virulently, mirrored there. What animosities HK media hints at are far exceeded by the 'real thing.' Social media is no solution. The problems are much more complex (as she alluded to) and 'explanations' will not suffice. There are some behaviors and norms violations that can't just be explained or justified away.

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